Hillary Clinton won’t be “President Nana”

She's stepping into a new role, but she doesn't need a baby to "soften" her image

Topics: Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Mitt Romney, Bill Clinton, Media Criticism, Motherhood,

Hillary Clinton won't be "President Nana" Hillary and Chelsea Clinton (Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan)

There’s an axiom that the comments on any article on feminism justify feminism. This is known as Lewis’s Law. In the wake of the recent announcement that Chelsea Clinton is expecting her first child, I would like to amend it to note that the commentary around any conversation about Hillary Clinton justifies why we need Hillary Clinton.

Chelsea revealed her pregnancy in New York Thursday at a Clinton Foundation event with her mother, a “Girls: A No Ceilings Conversation” to “advance progress for women and girls around the world.” As Chelsea told the audience, “I just hope that I will be as good a mom to my child and hopefully children as my mom was to me. Marc and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year and I certainly feel all the better, whether it’s a girl or a boy, that she or he will grow up in a world full of so many strong female leaders.” And after the younger Clinton acknowledged her mother as both a good parent and a strong female leader at an event about empowering women in the workforce, what happened next? Plenty of ridiculous, retro speculation about how her 34-year-old daughter’s impending motherhood will affect Hillary Clinton’s career prospects. To quote Archer, “This is like O. Henry and Alanis Morissette had a baby and named it this exact situation.”



In the Christian Science Monitor, writer Linda Feldmann quickly went all out,  musing, “How, if at all, might the news affect whether Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016? … Perhaps it’s sexist even to ask the question – how will a grandchild affect her decision – but until she announces either way, it will be out there … As anyone who’s had children knows, there’s often nothing like the bond between mother and daughter when the first grandbaby is on the way. If we had to guess, we’d say that Hillary Clinton will be a tad less interested in running for president now that she’s about to be a grandmother.” But the Wall Street Journal helpfully surmised that “Mrs. Clinton’s status as a new grandmother could prove helpful, softening the image of a veteran politician who is often seen through a partisan lens.” Politico mused, “The armchair thinking goes, having a grandchild may make the Iowa State Fair a less appealing place to spend the summer of 2015. Why beg donors for money at dozens of events a month when there’s a happy baby to spend time with in New York?” but speculated, “In the vernacular of cable television, becoming a grandmother can only ‘humanize’ Clinton, who has long been critiqued for her aloof demeanor and rigid personal discipline.” Washington Monthly, meanwhile, declared “Nana for President,” and observed, “Becoming a grandmother offers another particular advantage: it will give her the space to create a new public image. One that is softer. Cuddlier. More relatable. More real. And that’s exactly what Hillary needs.” Thanks, all. You do know she’s been the first lady, New York’s first female senator and the U.S. secretary of state, right?

And on television, the talking heads were gobbling up the story like it was the “Up” pastry plate. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Andrew Ross Sorkin was all over “the human drama that is Grandma Clinton,” saying, “It’s going to change the way people look at Hillary Clinton. There’s a softening, there’s a compassion thing. You don’t think over the next two years, on the campaign trail, this is going to be part of the narrative?” Over on “CBS This Morning” Friday, Charlie Rose asked former President Bill Clinton, “President or a grandmother?” as if the two were mutually exclusive. The former president diplomatically answered, “If you ask her, I think she’d say grandmother, but I have found it best not to discuss that issue.” But why is this even being asked?

Mrs. Clinton’s eagerness to become a grandmother has been a running joke since her daughter wed almost four years ago. In a Glamour interview earlier this year, Chelsea admitted, “She asks us about it every single day.” And after Thursday’s announcement, Mrs. Clinton enthusiastically took to Twitter to declare, “My most exciting title yet: Grandmother-To-Be!” She has every right to be completely stoked about her expanding family. I’d just like to point out that Mitt Romney has so many grandchildren he has literally lost count, and in 2012, you didn’t see a whole lot of conversation about how his role as Grampy would affect his run at the White House. John McCain ran for president as a grandfather. Hell, Sarah Palin ran for his vice president while her daughter was an unmarried pregnant teenager – and she had a young baby of her own — and there wasn’t this much speculation about what motherhood and grandmotherhood would do to “soften” her image. But Hillary? An educated, powerful political figure with decades of experience and achievement behind her? She’s still living out just the latest incarnation of the perpetual questioning over whether she’s soft and human and pleasant enough, when being soft and pleasant are not in fact job qualifications. Well, here’s the answer. If you didn’t respect her for her own merits and accomplishments before, a grandbaby won’t make much difference. But if you wonder if that longed-for and no doubt already much-loved grandchild will affect her ambitions, consider that this is the woman who said 22 years ago, “I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession.” A woman who just one day ago was celebrating her daughter’s pregnancy at an event championing girls and women. What makes you think anything’s going to stop her now?

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 7
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.

       

    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."

    Reuters/NASA

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...